Which Software Is Best For Typesetting Your Ebook?

A few weeks ago, I discussed which programs you can use to typeset a print book, but what about ebooks? Can you use the same software for those?

The short answer is that yes, you could, but you probably shouldn’t.

The typesetting needs of an ebook are drastically different from from a print book.* Print books are designed by your ability to understand the physical space and conventions of paper and ink. Ebooks are designed by your ability to understand code and adaptability.

An ebook needs flexibility; formatting that doesn’t break if the readers changes the font, fontsize, or leading, for one example. For another, a more minimalist approach to the layout is also preferred, since you can’t predict how your reader’s device is going to be sized and shaped. While a print book is fixed to a very specific size, an ebook could be viewed on a phone, a tablet, a laptop… basically, anything with a functioning screen.

Since every program I previously recommended for print books works within a fixed page space, none of them are conductive to creating an ebook.

So what programs are good for ebooks?

Unlike last week, programs like Google Docs, Microsoft Word, and Open Office are halfway decent options! Remember how I said that these programs are centered around text creation rather than text display? In this case, the more rigid interface makes it easier to focus on more important elements than design, like navigation.

As an added bonus, there many tutorials for making ebooks with these programs, and plenty of online file converters that can change .docx files into the right filetypes for whichever platform you’re planning to publish on (.ePub, .PDF, or .mobi).

But while it’s possible to create a functioning ebook with these programs alone, I find that this gives me less control than using them in combination with another program. You can set up the basics — chapter titles, clickable table of contents, the works — and then convert your .docx into another file format. Then you can input that file into a different program for fine-tuning.

Many people recommend Calibre. I downloaded it and after a few hours of exploring, decided to look at my other options because the interface wasn’t very intuitive, and I found it difficult to navigate. If you’re looking to manage a lot of books for publishing though, it’s a good option to keep in mind.

Now, if you know a little HTML code (as I do), then Sigil might be a good option for you. Like Calibre, it’s free. It’s also what I used when formatting Shadow Herald‘s ePub file. It’s easy to makes changes and new text styles, and Sigil will usually let you know if part of your formatting is nonfunctional.

Another recommended software that I often get recommended to me is Scrivener. I know a little less about this option, and it’s not free, but it is a one one-time payment software (much better than a subscription-based program) and it supports all three potential filetypes for an ebook.

*Small note here; I’ve recently learned that if your publishing platform supports PDFs, then you may be able to get away with using the same programs and skillsets you would use to design a print book. Nice!

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Did this help you find the resources you need to format your book? If you find my advice helpful, then you can support me as a creator by buying me a Ko-fi! I’ll set up Shadow Herald‘s new pre-order soon too. Thank you, and have a lovely day.

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